by Randy King
I filed my last culinary adventure under the “because I had never tried it before” category: I killed and ate rock chucks, also known as marmots.
I would be lying if I said I was dying to try rock chuck, but I didn't kill without justification. Rock chucks tend to make huge holes in fields and cause havoc in streambeds. Consequently, a lot of places—my father's business included—have them removed in whatever way possible. This was the case last weekend when I harvested two rock chucks with a high-powered air gun.
These air guns are no Red Ryders. They are serious weapons that can sling a .22 caliber bullet at 1,000 feet per second—that is faster than some rimfire and most black powder weapons. They send those little pellets screaming.
It is common for hunters to kill the little burrowing beasts and let them lay, and I have done this in the past. But I have struck a new chord in my hunting career: If I kill it, I am going to eat it.
After I shot the rock chucks, I skinned them. I do not know what rock-chuck skin is made out of, but it seriously needs to be considered for body armor. The stuff was nearly invincible. It took me as long to skin those two chucks as it takes me to skin a deer.
Rock chuck meat is also unlike that of most four-legged creatures because it is centered on the front shoulders. Most animals I have eaten have had much larger muscle groups on the hind end than the front. Rock chucks are the reverse, I believe, because they need strong front legs to dig the holes that got my two in trouble in the first place.
When it was all said and done, I decided that I would confit the large rodents. Confit is when you cook something very slowly in fat, which breaks down the connective tissue. In this case, I cooked the rock chuck in bacon fat and butter. I often use this method for cuts of meat that I think are going to be stringy or tough.
After they cooked, I pulled the meat and made a rock-chuck pizza with half the confit, and with the other half I made pot stickers—or "rock stickers” as my friend called them. The pizza idea came from my children. I knew I could convince them to eat the chuck if it came on a triangular slice of pie. The pot stickers idea came from desperation, like most creative things. I was searching for a way to use up the last of the chuck when I noticed won-ton wrappers in the back of the freezer.
The chuck was a little stringy and had a slight gamy flavor. That might be acceptable in a desperate situation, but I am not in any rush to shoot another chuck.